Becoming a Better Networker

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Piles of time are spent networking for various networking events, lectures, receptions, go-home meetings, conferences, etc.

Most people are well aware of the importance of caring and expanding their networks for their careers and businesses. But it turns out that many do it in the blind. They actually have no idea what they are really good at or what they can do better when it comes to networking.

They attend network meetings, lectures, or conferences with their heads under their arm and do as they please – without thinking in any small way that it is their way of being who decides whether or not to come home with a stronger network.

Maybe you can even recognize situations where you actually only talked to those you already knew?

Or just ended up panicking a bit over the cookies and not getting in touch with anyone because it just felt too awkward and not at all you?

It may also be that you are the type that easily throws you into new acquaintances, but discovers you get too little out of the many different contacts and often forget to follow up afterward.

Here are 10 tips to ensure you become a better networker for the next event

1. Decide before you arrive

What would you like to achieve by networking? Do you need specific contacts, information on a particular topic, meeting, sparring or simply expanding your network?

2. Be generous – give out

Networking is about both give and take. A skilled networker starts by trying to make a difference for others. So be aware of sharing your knowledge, your experiences, your contacts, etc. Your helpfulness will make others want to recommend you, collaborate with you, or share their knowledge with you. Networking is driven by a kind of “relational economy” that does not matter, but a balance where it is about both parties experiencing the contact creates value.

3. Have a short elevator speech ready in advance when meeting new people

Your elevator pitch should only take approx. 60 sec. Here you must tell who you are,
where you come from, what you work with, and what you particularly like about helping or being concerned about. When you get a sense of what you are passionate about, you better remember yourself. Please end your elevator speech with an open question that invites you to a conversation.

4. Set yourself a target for how many you want to network with

Set a realistic goal when you participate in different things. The goal could, for example, be that you have to network with at least 2-3 people you do not already know. That way, it becomes more affordable than if you expect too much from yourself.

5. Be available

Make eye contact with people and smile at them. Eye contact signals “I’ve seen you” and breaks down the first barrier at a meeting. When we smile we show kindness, openness, and welcome. Do NOT stand in a closed group of colleagues or with those you already know. Push yourself out of the comfort zone.

6. Ask open-ended questions

Ask questions that can’t just be answered with a yes or no. Ask open-ended questions that start with “What”, “where”, “how”, etc.

examples:

“In companies like yours, how do you …?”

“What is your job responsibilities?”

“What trend do you see within …?”

7. Give your business card

Have your business card ready so you can share it with the people you talk to. Ask directly for a chat. “Shouldn’t we just exchange business cards?”. It’s a call to follow up and reminds you of who you talked to when you get home. Follow-up is crucial for your relationship to develop, and you can enjoy being in each other’s networks.

8. Invite others to join the conversation

Be aware if there are other persons who nearby standing alone who you can invite into the conversation. Introduce them to what you are talking about so that they feel welcome and invited to participate in the talk. Eg. “We’re just talking about … what do you think about …?”

9. Elegantly end the conversation

Avoid being “caught” for too long in a conversation so that you do not get the network with several different ones. End the conversation politely. Recognize the other for an exciting talk and say for example. “It was really nice to meet you – I just have to greet a few others” or ask for help eg. “Is there anyone here that you think I should greet as well?”

10. Follow up

Follow up on the contact within one week. Eg. via LinkedIn or an email with a personal greeting.

For example, start with “It was nice to meet you …” and end the message openly “If I can help you with something, you are welcome”.

Be aware that networking takes time to develop and requires care.

Think about setting up a network budget where you set aside time to continuously take small initiatives to nurture and develop your relationships.

Put into practice the 10 network tips. It needs repetition. But the more consciously and strategically you practice networking – the stronger you build and the faster you will experience the return of investment.

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